Much has happened since my last update. You may well have seen some of this news on our web page.
Our Board is now complete and we have been very fortunate to appoint some hugely experienced new directors to the Board. Allan Robson, Jason Lee and Lucy McClements have joined the Board as Independent Directors. Following her election as the new Chair of the England Handball Association, Tracy Watkinson also joined the Board as one of the two EHA representatives, replacing Mike Briers who stepped down after serving two terms as EHA Chair. We would like to thank Mike for his service on the Board over the past few years, and welcome our new Directors.
Allan Robson, former CEO of Northampton Saints Rugby Union Club, is overseeing marketing and commercial matters. Jason Lee former GB Hockey World Championship medallist as both a player and coach, is overseeing Performance and will help to develop the strategy going forward. Lucy McClements, a former senior executive with the Financial Services Authority, will review BHA governance and look after finances. All three have already been very active in supporting our work.
Over the past few months we have been involved, together with 11 other unfunded Olympic and Paralympic sports, in discussions with Dame Katherine Grainger, the new Chair of UK Sport, about changing their current funding model. The talks have been open and constructive, but it is still too early to say whether we will succeed in securing funding for British Handball in the future.
Last season we staged our first test run of a British Championship men’s play-off, bringing together the English and Scottish champions, with Warrington Wolves beating Livingston in a close game. This year we will stage a Final 4 for the men, and a straight final for women, on 19-20 May at the Oriam in Edinburgh. Our plan ultimately is to stage a Final 4 for both men and women. The competition will decide the GB places in the EHF European cup competitions.
Two GB teams were in action at official events last summer, with the U17 girls finishing 11th at the EHF 17 European Championship in Lithuania, collecting on the way their first win against Latvia. The senior men finished 11th out of 16 in the IHF Emerging Nations Championship, despite taking an injury-depleted squad to Bulgaria. They recorded wins against Malta, Armenia, Albania and Ireland.
Since the summer we have appointed new coaches to three GB squads. Ricardo Vasconcelos was confirmed as coach of the GB men’s team, after doing the role on an interim basis for five months. Bill Baillie and Gary McCafferty were jointly appointed to run the GB U18 women’s team, while Ciaran Williams has been appointed to run the U18 boys.
As part of our policy on recruiting GB team coaches through open processes, we will shortly begin an application process for the GB Women’s team coach position.
Next Summer three GB age group squads will be in action. The U18 Women will participate in the IHF/EHF Trophy from 29 May-3 June in Tuzla, Bosnia & Herzegovina, where the draw has yet to be confirmed. Meanwhile the U20 Men will play in the EHF M20 Championship is Skopje, Macedonia, where they have been drawn with Switzerland, Italy, the Ukraine and hosts Macedonia. The U18 Men’s team will take part in the EHF M18 Championship next summer in Tulln, Austria, from 9-19 August, they have been drawn with the Czech Republic, Turkey, Montenegro, the Ukraine and Ireland.
We continue to lobby the IHF and EHF for more affordable competitions for the senior women’s team, as we see this as an area that is lacking in opportunities.
We remain conscious that these programmes are self-funded and are hugely grateful to the staff, players and parents for their understanding and support.
We have a several other projects which are in development and I will report on these next time. In the meantime feel free to reach out if you have any thoughts or questions.
Chairman, British Handball